Saturday, December 31, 2011

new year veggie burgers and lentil soup

In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, but never in want.
Irish Toast

Why does the New Year always feel so anti-climatic? I mean, really, it is just another day that I get to be off of work. I'll take it. Or maybe it is because we don't have any particular New Year's Eve traditions around this house. I have waited tables since I was 16. For those not familiar with restaurant life, you can pretty much count on working. My hubster and I worked restaurants for the first 3 years of our life together, so New Year's was usually spent working then getting hammered after everyone went home. This is our sixth year with children, our tenth year together, and never once have we gone out and done something "adult" on New Year's before. This year will be no different. The oldest has a birthday party to attend. Said party includes a DJ and they were asked to bring their "dancing sock." I'm going to go out on a limb here and say his New Year's will be the most rocking thing happening in this family.

Oh well, I've come to terms with my "oldness" and someday, after the kids are moved out, I'm sure we'll go out then. Right?

Here's to hoping.

Today is being spent instead, looking to the future...of my buns. Hamburger buns were on the menu for tonight's veggie burger and lentil soup meal.


Prebaking, they kind of look like the pretzel rolls yesterday. Which actually kind of sounds good. Pretzel roll buns. Hmm....not a bad idea. Next time....

We took this recipe from AllRecipes.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
    I was a little worried that this would be too much for the bread maker, flour wise. I hadn't made anything this big before in the bread maker. It worked fine. I guess I could have looked in the manual to see what it held, but I'm a big fan of trial and error. It serves me well.


    I put in all the liquids, egg and butter first. Next, the sugar and salt. Lastly, the flour then yeast. I used 2.5tsp of yeast. (I found the best Yeast Conversion table. Bookmarked!) Put it on the Quick Dough cycle and in 45 minutes, I was cutting these bad boys into 12 (kind of) equal pieces.


    I let them rise for about 45 minutes, greased a baking sheet, set the buns on to some corn meal then moved them to the baking sheet. They cooked for 11 minutes and cooked to sweet perfection in that 11 minutes.

    Can I say my house, for the first time in years, smells heavenly. No judging. I have kids and dogs. It stinks on occasion. What can I say? I'm human.

    But these buns smell delectable. I won't get to try them until dinner. So for now, you can drool over the pictures.


    **Update** A total hit! We took them to a fantastic potluck with friends and they were loved all around, by both kids and adults. Someone even asked what the veggie burgers on it were. I said just plain old Morning Star. He was surprised because they were so tasty. He came back later and said "I figured out what made the burgers so good. The buns. I've had a lot of Morning Star burgers, but these buns make them so good."

    So, for this, I give them an eight. Hubsters still made no comment to the deliciousness of the buns. What is wrong with this man?

    Friday, December 30, 2011

    Another twist

    Well, shake it up, baby, now, (shake it up, baby)
    Twist and shout. (twist and shout)
    ---The Beatles

    Today, we have twists on the mind. After my failed attempt to twist the bread sticks, I tried a twist of a different sort. Pretzels! Only, I didn't actually twisting anything. I should then say, I made bites. You heard me, those delectable salty, buttery soft pretzels like you can only get at the fair or the mall.

    pretzel bites

    I found the recipe a la Pinterest (if you aren't following me yet, what you are waiting for?).

    Recipe is adapted (ever so slightly from Allrecipes) by Dine and Dish. I don't think she actually included her modification, except for the butter, on her blog, as the posted recipe still said to cut into 8 and twist. I went with 14, as noted below, which were actually still much bigger then I would have liked. Next time, I might cut them in to closer to 28-ish...about half their current size. They were on average 43grams each (pictured).

    • 1 1/8 cups water (70 to 80 degrees F)
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    • 2 quarts water
    • 1/2 cup baking soda
    • coarse salt
    • melted butter – not in the original recipe, but a must for mall food pretzel like experience
    Start by adding the first four to the bread machine in the following order: water, sugar, flour, yeast. Set to dough and wait.
      Then turn them out onto floured surface and divide into 8 balls. I actually thought 8 balls was too going to be
      too big, so I went with 14 smaller balls. (Too much ball talk for anyone else?)
      Heat up the water and baking soda to  boil. Drop pretzels into boiling water, two at a time; boil for 10-15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.

        Place pretzels on greased baking sheets. Bake at 425 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Spritz or lightly brush with water. Sprinkle with salt. 

        So, one thing I didn't have on hand was course salt. I ever so lightly sprinkled these with regular sea salt and that was okay with me. I don't need them super salty.

        They were the perfect treat for lunch. Hot, crunchy, a little salty, a little buttery, and rather tasty. They were an excellent density for pretzels. Not too light, not too heavy. The baby took a big bite and loved it. Then threw it at the dog. I hope she was trying to share and not testing their hardness. The hubsters...."I'm not a pretzel man."
        What kind of person says they aren't a pretzel person? Can that even be possible? I mean, what is there to dislike? The crunch? The salt? The chewy inside? Geebus. It's a pretzel. The most kindest food on the planet. Take a bite.
        He succumbed. One bite then I ate the rest. He response. "Tastes like a pretzel." I can't lie, it did. I'm giving it a seven, because there is nothing to not like about this pretzel bite. Nothing. Dipped in a delicious cheddar cheese sauce would make it more delish. Alas, cheese sauce is not in the cards.

        While I was working off my pretzel bite lunch, the hubsters had a friend over to watch soccer. When I came down, I said "B really liked the pretzels, eh? He had eight." To which he replied...."I ate some too." Umm....Mr. "I Don't Like Pretzels" ate how many?"

        So, I kept on making dinner and said, "You did?" And he says....wait for it...."I decided to try them."

        WHAAAAAAAAA? So when I asked you to take a bite, you did, begrudgingly, but when your friend eats them and loves them (yes, he said he LOVED them), then you will try them? What are we five?

        So, I'm leaving the rating, because I can't justify an eight when he only ate them because his friend did.

        pretzel bites

        Nutritional Facts
        (Assuming 14 pieces) 

        Thursday, December 29, 2011

        The Italian

        I'm Italian (part italian...despite what I tell you.) I'm Italian.

        I love bread. I love the Italian bread I can remember from my grandmother's home as a child. I'm sure it was store bought. She had eight children and more grandchildren then can be counted on two hands. But I remember her serving it with warmth. I remember the slightly crusty but chewy outside with the soft inside. I remember it being served with rigatoni and meatballs, spaghetti, penne! I remember bread with every meal growing up.

        This tradition has carried over into my adult life and my children love bread as much as I do. For better or worse, we love bread.

        Tonight was pasta night. We needed bread. For the first time, I can plan ahead and make bread instead of sending the hubsters to the store moments before dinner to pick some up. (Or worse, him refusing and the family having wheat sandwich bread with our pasta. Oh the humanity!)

        I spent the better part of my morning searching for bread recipes that I could make up in the bread machine then cook in the oven. I stumbled across this one which had great reviews.

        I prepared mine exactly as written, adding the water and oil, then the sugar and salt and lastly the flour and yeast. Popped it in the machine and it did it's thing for 1 hour and 50 minutes.

        When it was done, I flattened it out and rolled it up. Then left it to rise again.


        After about an hour of sitting, I popped it in the oven.

        When I say the first loaf was gone in record time, I really mean it. My kids didn't even bother with the pasta. They just wanted bread. They wanted to eat the second loaf. They want me to make loaves for all their friends. It was a real hit. The house smelled wonderful. The hubsters might have cracked a smile. Which to me, means it gets an eight. I said he might have smiled, not that he did. The only bread that will crack an eight will have to get some kind of response out of my otherwise emotionless hubster.


        Pizza and Breadstick Dinner

        What I've failed to mention is that there was a second loaf just after the first and right before this dinner. It was an italian white loaf...which just meant I added basil and olive oil was substituted for milk. But, like the first loaf, it still sits on the counter, unloved.

        So, lets skip to what WAS loved.

        First up were these amazing breadsticks from Salad in a Jar. I didn't twist them correctly, because all the twist was lost in the rising and baking. They were so good and my kids devoured them. I would give these garlic sticks a 7. They were light, fluffy and easy to make. They lose points because of the effect on my hips due to the butter. A great sometimes treat though.

        before rising
        before rising

        before cooking
        garlic bread sticks

        after cooking
        garlic bread sticks

        The previous night I had made some pizza dough. The recipe came straight from the book provided with the bread maker. It was refrigerated over night.

        pizza dough

        and turned into two tasty pizzas the next day. These were yummy. A 6 on the scale, not because of anything, just because they lacked anything that would make my tastebuds run away screaming in joy. It was dough. Good. Not great.

        the first loaf

        Being new to the world of bread making, one must begin at the bottom. With the recipe book that comes attached to the bread maker. This is what that loaf looks like. Too dense for a sandwich. But yummy all the same. If I had to rate it on a scale of one to ten, it would be a three. Not because it tastes bad. Just because, it doesn't feel like a terribly useful loaf of bread and it wasn't gobbled up in moments as other loaves have been. My kids didn't really love it, but they choked it down. Again, not because it tastes bad. I think it is just too dense and too big. Toasted up nicely though.


        It wasn't until I began looking around that I realized that a bread maker was considered cheating! I had no idea. So, I decided to venture outside of the recipe book attached and try a different loaf of bread.

        It all started one Christmas Day...

        It all started one morning with a break maker.   I haven't looked back since. I'll use this blog to track my breads, recipes and ratings.

        I'll hope you'll follow along!